By Anne Raver
Mar. 9, 1971, Oberlin Review
The women’s movement in this country has founded its strength upon small groups of women who have banded together through their common need to express the frustrations and inadequacies that result from the roles of women in this society. Through these groups we have come together out of the isolation that we have felt from other women—isolation made by competing with each other for the men of the society and the status that we can gain only secondarily through “our men.” In an attempt to discredit the importance of women’s liberation, men and other woman have labeled such groups as lesbian societies. Far from defeating the value of women’s relationships with one another, such labels reflect the twisted fears that our society has ingrained in us, and the repression of a free expression of love between two members of the same sex, labeling such expression as perverted and sick.
Forced sexual roles
Lesbianism poses a threat to society and the roles that have been established for men and women. It threatens the nuclear family and the strictly assigned roles designed to make the family run smoothly as the supportive stable basis of our economy. The family, and its isolation from other units of the society furthers the hunger for private property and greater individual wealth, and protects itself from any change that might upset its own stability. There is the threatening power of individuality and freedom in homosexuality that has come partly from the rebellion against those very narrow roles that are assigned to women as keepers of the family. Women, in the majority of heterosexual relationships, are required to take the passive role not only as the passive sexual partner, but in almost every form of her life as the secondary member of her lover’s society. From childhood, a woman is taught to defer to her brothers, to let them protect her, to let them make the decisions, to prepare for her role of pleasing men, of performing the womanly duties of the family—bearing the children, keeping the home beautiful, and upholding the community. She is taught to allow the decisions of the world to be made for her, and to make the best of them, to wait for things to happen for her. She finds it hard to take an aggressive role in leading men and women, out of fear of being unwomanly. Men are forced into roles as well—not to play the aggressor is to be labeled effeminate—the threat of “You’re not a man.” But though man’s role has been forced upon him, the nature of this aggressive role allows him greater flexibility in developing his own family members. For women, the nature of their roles is such that they are discouraged purposefully from developing themselves and do not make any commitments in their own lives so that they may go where their men go without conflict, already having sacrificed their individuality before marriage.
‘Homosexual’ is obsolete
Lesbianism is certainly more than a reaction against the perverted roles that are forced upon women. “If anybody were allowed to fall in love with anybody, the word “homosexual” wouldn’t be needed; it’s used now only to set people off in separate categories, artificially, so they’ll know who to be afraid of—each other.” (Women—A Journal of Liberation, Summer ’70). We have been taught to think that homosexuality is ugly, perverted, and once we begin to examine the idea, we explain it as an out growth of a diseased society which forced persons to exclude the opposite sex. White it is true that society does force people to seek alternatives to gain a freer and more equal expression of love through homosexuality, this does not necessarily contradict the hope that men and woman may be able to achieve this same mutual freedom. The essential question is not what homosexuality lacks—the procreative fulfillment between man and woman—but what it means in its own right, as a form of perfect love between people regardless of their sex. Ideally, love between man and woman should allow for free expression and equal reciprocity, mutuality, but this should not exclude love between two women or two men. The Greeks exalted love between two men as a more perfect understanding with no barriers presented by their sex, but there should be no reason for excluding the understanding and love that can be expressed between members of the same sex. We have been discouraged from touching our women friends, from caressing one another when in our minds and hearts we have come together, and we are imprisoned by the fears of love between two women because of the threat it holds for heterosexuality. But the threat is in our own minds and there is no reason for one form of love to exclude another—that is the true liberation.